Falling in Love with the City of Gentle People Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, Philippines

ALL-TIME FAVORITE POST FROM 2011 RE-BLOGGED: Dumaguete, the capital of Negros Oriental is a beautiful city to travel to. It's one of the most scenic provinces i have been to in Visayas and one of the most relaxing, too. I would often recall passing by the streets and admiring how simple life is there. It's not as commercialized as Cebu, though it's not as quaint as Guimaras or Siquijor. It's just right. There are a lot of expats who consider dumag-we'te their home, and i couldn't agree with their decision more. I would want to live here ttoo, to be honest.

Apart from its rich history and culture, the most i can remember about Dumaguete are its people. I often walk around and observe the charming locals and their seemingly infinite smiles. Sometimes, i would just sit and look around. These images were already enough to make me smile.

Walking along Rizal boulevard anytime of the day, you would feel the intense passion and love overflowing. There's just too much love in the air and it's inspiring everyone. It will touch your core without even knowing it. It seems Roxas boulevard has some competition over there. If you read this blog, you know about my fascination for couples sitting by the bay and how i love to document couples whether it is in Manila or Phnom Penh. Them holding hands and expressing their devotion for one another. 

The people of Dumaguete are warm, accommodating and friendly. They are down to earth and respectful. They value the simplest things and they are open to sharing  their life even with non-locals. They don't see the facade but they get to know the real you, your heart and soul. They are good friends too. 

I don't know any better way to describe the city than to tell you the story of my driver/guide/friend. In my opinion, he surely symbolizes what the city is all about, and what it represents.

Alex is about the same age as mine - late 20's and has been working really, really hard everyday to earn for his family. He is a father of three adorable kids, one of which is sickly. His wife works for a resort/guest house as a waitress. Through the days that he's been there to drive me through the highs and lows of Negros, I've come to know an awesome man. I surely learned a lot of lessons from him, those of which i carry with me now as i write this. 

He loves to share his childhood story, of how he loves the ocean and how he and his friends would often set to the sea to fish. He free-dives a lot and at one time, he almost lost his life. He would often tell me to hit the beach whenever i feel unwell. For him, the ocean is the best remedy to any illness. As he grows older, he started seeking for greener pasture, taking odd jobs like bar tending in Sumilon Island, instructing foreigners to dive in Panglao Island and even working as a household help in Dumaguete. One thing i noticed about Alex is that he is proud of his accomplishments. He asked me what i do for a living, and of course i mentioned a career unfamiliar to his ears. Never did he feel inferior of his job. 

He saved up big bucks for his family. Living in Dumaguete, you don't need millions. Life in the gentle city is simple and cheap. Now, he's been able to provide comfortable living for his kids and a lovely wife. Early last year, he was able to buy his own tricycle. He would also talk about his usual customers, those Japanese living in Siquijor. They would often call up  Alex to drive them around town buying supplies to take home with them. On one of our talks over SMB in Rizal boulevard, he told me how proud he is of the province. He lives in a small town called Bacong. Everyday he would take turns with his wife in picking up their little one in school. He is proud to add that his greatest achievement is providing his kids with good education. It was about an hour before midnight when his daughter texted him asking him when is he coming home. His family is that close, and he would often bring home something to his daughter whenever he comes home late at night. That is the only time, little daughter can sleep.

He would often ask me about my life in Manila but i would often cut my answer short. I often tell him, life in Negros is simple and pleasant. Life in Manila is comfortable but busy. I told him how time always seems short in the bustling capital of the Philippines. One day, coming back from Valencia, he wanted me to meet his niece, a child of a Spanish mestizo and a local from Negros. Alex would often worry about his niece's safety. The girl is lovely and just like any other place in the world, she catches so much attention. He is proud of her and that she studies in a international school. 

Alex wanted me to see all the sights in Negros but time is running out. He initially wanted to take me far out of town but i needed to fly back to Manila. I had to give it to the guy for driving me all the way to the mountains and spur of the moment trips to little barangays and magnificent cliffs, and for being patient to stop every so often so i could mingle with the people and take decent photos. He always gives a shy face whenever i ask him how much he will charge me for the trip. Never did he put a price. 

Before i left Negros Oriental, we chatted for a bit outside the airport over a few bottles of SMB. It was such a good time to spend my last hours in the province. In all of the time that i get to chat at Alex, i could sense his sincerity and honesty. 

Looking back now, i come to realize how Alex symbolizes so much the province. He is a man of great dignity and respect. He values family, friendships and God. He is a man who lives for the present and future. Just like the province, he's cautious of the future too. His love for life and the simple things are admirable. He is vulnerable but knows his way around. He's equipped with the values that seems enviable; God-fearing, honest and gentle. And that i think is what makes him and the city so damn special.

The Little Island Cove at Tres Reyes Island in Marinduque, Philippines

About thirty minutes from Katala Beach Resort, you'll get to Gaspar in Tres Reyes Islands. And about fifteen minutes from Gaspar Island, you'll reach P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E. I have done my research of Marinduque before i left fo this trip. But i wasn't informed of the undeniable beauty of Marinduque's little islets and coves. I was surprised that it was that beautiful. I was astounded as hell. I was floored.

From Gaspar island, you'll pass by huge limestone cliffs and huge boulders of rocks that protect the crown from the harsh seas. The boatman tried to point out one islet but sadly there was a group of sun-kissed animals like me lounging there so he said we'll go to another islet. See the glory of island hopping in Marinduque is you can still find an islet or cove all to yourself. We turned back and off we go to the quiet islet within a cove. The boat docked and this is what i saw.

I am a writer but i just couldn't anymore find the words to describe this place. I was just smiling. I wasn't in tears because how can i. It's literally just so beautiful to begin with. 

MARINDUQUE is Beautiful...
God loves the Philippines so much!
No wonder a few foreign tourists never left the island province and decided to stay for good here. Now, they are the proud owners of most beach resorts and restaurants in Marinduque. I couldn't complain a bit because they've given my fellowmen work which is always good. From the friendly German guy i met, he said not more than ten foreigners call Gasan their home.

What must be like the scene from the Blue Lagoon is the very same islet i chilled in when i was in Marinduque. 

I couldn't contain my emotions, really. Happiness. Feat. High spirits. 

I sat like i always do and found a shade under a rock. Gee, thankful i went here. I could write so much here. Poetry, Music, Arts. But i want to leave the island untouched.

Life's a beach and it is definitely good in the Philippines!!!

There were some fisherman who passed by and shared the little cove with me. It was lunch time and they needed a break from all the fishing. Stopped by the island. Grilled fish. Played Chess and drank rhum. Oh, whattalife for them.

The tricky part with Marinduque is that just when you thought you've been to or seen the best, chances are you have been only to the second best. Get me. It's like this - almost everywhere i've been to in Marinduque, it's always astounding but i knew i couldn't afford to miss out what the rest of Marinduque has to offer. And i am proud that my instincts were right.

Like all Real travelers around the world, we don't stop at seeing one beautiful place.

I was off to Boac, Sta. Cruz and Torrijos next. Day by day, Marinduque surprises me with its wonders.

Travel Diary: The Last Minute Trip to Bohol in the Philippines with French People

This trip wasn't planned. I have been day dreaming and night dreaming of my South East Asian trip when i was asked if i wanted to join some new friends of mine. I thought, why not. As they say, never refuse an invitation.

But the case was different this time around. There will be four of us traveling and i'm the only Filipino. These French people were going on a trip. I was suppose to go to Bohol alone, a week before because nobody wanted to join me. So when they asked if i wanted to go to Bohol, i said yes right away. 

I met up with them two days before the scheduled flight to pay for our plane ticket going to Tagbilaran in Bohol. I've been to some of the island provinces in Visayas, namely Aklan, Ilo-Ilo, Antique, Guimaras but i found Bohol quite different. I was expecting more: quiet town, calm waters, very friendly locals, white sand beaches and mesmerizing marine life. Bohol showed me there's more to discover than expect just the average Bohol. This province is captivating. No wonder, i've fallen in love with the province all over again. We flew via Philippine Airlines. The fare was pretty reasonable as compared to the low cost airline - Cebu Pacific. The seats were better, more comfortable and the flight schedules were better. We left Manila first flight at around 5AM and flew from Tagbilaran after 4 days at around 5PM. We pretty much used up our 4 days stay. When we arrived, we negotiated for a van that would take us to Panglao Island. After a few minutes we were dropped of at the back of the beach. A few walks up, we already saw the shore. The shore wasn't that big, maybe it's because of the high tide, but this is what i'm talking about. The air is different and the sea is just crazily beautiful.

We stayed at Bohol Divers Resort - the cheapest we've scouted amongst the beach front resorts. But it was a plain, small fan room. It has no television and the bathroom is only defined by the blue hawaiian print curtains. But i guess it was okay since it gets pretty cold at night and most of the time we go back to the room we're already pretty drunk anyway. 

We availed of a tour package. i know, touristy right? But we wanted to get a great deal  (sharing the cost among four people was practical) and see as many places in one morning. We rode a car, and it was cheaper than getting a van. The road trip to Carmen, the town of Chocolate Hills was pretty scary. Imagine winding roads, high edged cliffs, massive mountains with tall trees enclosing the road to get there. 

Honestly, they didn't enjoy Chocolate Hills because it took us a long time to go there and the weather wasn't cooperating. But the picture will say it all, how amazing the hills were. They're actually almost equally distant from each other. You might think twice believing this wasn't man made. It's gorgeous. But as we climbed the stairs going to the top, the rains started pouring. Whatever. We still got there and took pictures of us jumping instead of holding a broom stick all the way to your crotch. 

Gulping liters of water, we went to Loboc Hanging Bridge where we have to cross a poorly built bridge made out of bamboo sticks. I wouldn't be surprised if in a few weeks it'll fall. There was a part on the bridge, where i could already swear seeing my foot down.

Then it was time for the Loboc River Cruise. It was great to go upstream. But i think the next time i will go there will be when i'm with someone special. You enjoy the breeze and ride to the river with a girlfriend, not with loud buddies. This same place, you could see the tiny tarsier. My French friends were playing with it. But it was too small for me, too fragile. And at that time, their huge eyes were almost closing, almost falling asleep. I guess the tarsiers, small monkies are having a siesta.

We went to Baclayon church but since we were all tired and wanted to go to the beach already, we went back to the car because it was pretty boring.

Alona Beach was the perfect choice for us because we didn't wanna be bored with the same location, same people, same food every single day. We needed to explore, find something to do and do things we've never done before. Alona Beach has that. If you walk down south, the sand there is softer - almost like Boracay fine white sands. The water is clear but it had a lot of plants. But it was still okay for us. There were numerous restaurants and bars lined up if you want to grab something to eat, like a clubhouse sandwich for me. Some bars serve average priced beers and cocktails. But it wasn't cheap. I guess their prices are for westerners. My friends loved table soccer. The French loves football so much. I tried to play it, but they were pretty intense with the game. They want to beat the hell out of their opponents. I just wanted to grab a beer and enjoy happy hour. 
Note: Bohol bars don't follow the happy hour-50% off on drinks.

You can just go to a dive center anywhere and ask for their special price for diving and snorkeling. They wanted to go diving as they had their first one in White Beach in Puerto Galera. I just wanted to snorkel.  The pictures you see of the underwater world of Bohol is superb. Pure majesty!  Probably the best thing Bohol has to offer to her tourists is its amazing underwater world. The boat ride to Balicasag Island was pretty sleepy, but on our way back was a different thing, probably the roughest boat ride I've ever ridden. But the truth is, i enjoyed it a lot. I feel pretty safe. And Spanish men who were also on the same boat were singing "Ole, Ole, Ole!!!". That made me smile, and forget less about the possibility of a sinking ship. Just negotiate the price for the boat ride and snorkeling gears. I think the price i paid was pretty cheap. We went to Balicasag Island twice.

I know a lot of people say that Bohol is a sleepy town. It is! But it's how you party that's different. Everyday, i'd go to the bar and have a San Mig Light. I talked with the very friendly waitresses. They're lovely and charming. They smile a lot and joke a lot. As i order my beer and down it after a few minutes, my Marlboro Lights lit up, they would talk to you. I've lost count how many Camparis and Rhum shots i was given for free by them. My French friends were asking me if it's okay to drink the shots. I told them, we're lucky boys. The waitresses liked us. We're a pretty young group as compared to most European farangs who're family men leaving their wives and children back at home to get a score and taste of Filipina women.

We went to a 24-hour bar, as Jinky would like to call it. I was telling her we would go with you wherever you will go. It's our last night in Bohol and we wanna have fun. We want it memorable. So off we go, me with an average of 8 beers that night, we walked towards the city to the bar. We're like love teams in Filipino movies. One tourist, one local girl. And as my French friend says - "Too much competition!" Because our competition now were the Australian boys and that California dude who strutted to Michael Jackson and gave a head stand up that would kill any street boy stunt.

I guess Pinoys are still the best. We, Pinoys, know how to make a move on a girl. We know how to make them laugh in a good way. We know how to dance accordingly. We are gentle and charming, and we know when to say what. Well, i took care of my French friends. I told them, i'm a tourist in here as well but i'm a Filipino. "I promise you guys will have the best time in Bohol." And i think, they did. So my girl Strawberry (Don't judge me, this was in 2008) and i was ahead of the pack. And Mona and the California dude were dancing reggaeton. Strawberry was with me. But she is "Kapuy na!" that is the only Boholano word i know - meaning she is tired.

We left the bar at almost 6AM. The sun was already rising. We couldn't anymore think and see clearly. But i told them an American phrase if you want to urinate. "I will take a leak"... I took a leak at the beach, when all of a sudden we saw Korean tourists going for the dolphin watching already and some ladies preparing for their fish selling. So embarassing!

P.S. More stories to come when i think about them. Fuck, i think i got the hang of speaking this way. Easy english because of my friends so they could understand me more. But i think this way, i speak more universal, don't you think?

Matador Network: Jordan from the Air

Travel Diary: Exploring the Capital of the Queen City of the South - Cebu, Philippines

Walking in Cebu is hectic. Hectic in a sense that there's so much to see, and with so little time, everything becomes too overwhelming. Cebu city is located in the eastern coast of mainland Cebu in Southern Philippines. With a rich Spanish influence and a laid back charm of province life, Cebu is a prime choice for tropical living in the country. Dubbed as the commercial hot spot of the south, boasting an international airport, progressive trade and industry business and scenery that will fickle all the senses. 

The trip to Cebu was planned, months actually before the flight. I mean, I've been around Guimaras and Antique but i haven't been to Cebu. It's about time! I wanted to go to this island north of the province (watch out for this post) and it's inevitable that i make a quick stop to the city first.

Lonely Planet says i had to walk about five hundred meters from the Arrival doors of Cebu International Airport. I got myself a taxi which i paid for about P350 or roughly $7, very expensive i know. Immediately, i got myself my first chat with a local. With relatively no Cebuano blood and having no knowledge of Bisaya, surprisingly, it was a good conversation. 

The taxi driver asked me if i was from Manila. I said yes. He asked me if i was a movie star? Huh? It must be the sunglasses and the three page white bond paper i was holding (It's part of work). He must be thinking i was in Cebu for a shoot.

I love this province already. Hellsyeah! 

Cebu city was scorching hot when i was arrived. I felt every drop of perspiration. It was hot, humid and polluted. I didn't care. I actually wanted to ride public transportation but i think it was impractical, and i was running late.

For about few days in the city, i found myself wandering around and finding myself at the end of the road. I walked some more and it was dead end. I walked around Osmena Boulevard and the outskirts, and i found myself staring at a dilapidated building. How could this be? Where's that Cebu charm everyone's raving about. Maybe, i was in a totally different place? Or maybe i am just clueless!

Cebu City is comparable to Manila but i didn't want to compare the two because each city has its own charm. Manila is like a man. Cebu City is like a woman. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Totally different!

Cebu city boasts of high rise building and super malls. There's tons where to waste your money. Progression is part of the city's growth. With thousands of businessmen flying to the city day and night everyday, for the rest of the year, it's right about time Cebu city keeps up.

As a traveler, i found myself sometimes sitting in some unknown sari-sari store and ordering a bottle of "Coke sakto", as i puff a smoke, i looked around and slowly see the real charm of the city. I gaze upon the locals while i was riding the jeepneys transfering to and from, with number signs i couldn't understand and the sweltering midday sun spiking up. Imagine.

With absolutely nowhere to go and with enough time to wander some more, my days were spent cruising through the streets at the back of a motorcycle. Being the loner that i am, i go eat alone at one of the food courts in the largest mall in Cebu and just taking it all in.

If you're single guy and foreign looking, chances are you will find the city a disneyland of beautiful people. Gorgeous and tanned - Cebuanas strutting along the boulevard like a runway model. You will know where to go when you want to, what you were thinking. 

Indeed, i came here searching to find answers why everyone's raving about Cebu, instead i got myself asking so many questions. I couldn't tell if i liked it or i hated it. The hell you might care what i maybe thinking, right?

And i have no regrets visiting the city, at least it's a place new to me.